It is called Breakwater. It parallels the lives of two family members, a grandfather and his grandson, decades apart. Both are struggling to understand the purpose of their lives. Hal, the grandfather, has endured great tragedy in his life and is now watching his wife’s mental health decline. His grandson, Clark, has nearly lost hope of finding happiness in his life. His dreams seem too tired to come true. He reconnects with a lost love and his life makes a sudden turn. But his own insecurities threaten everything. It is a story about seeking your destiny and finding something more. It is a story of faith, love and finding peace amidsts the storms of our lives.
Tell us something about yourself.
I’m from Gorham, Maine and have been an award-winning sports journalist for the last two decades. I’ve covered sports in New England from the high school to the professional levels, including being the beat writer for the American Hockey League’s Portland Pirates for 10 years. I’m a relatively new author. My novel Sons and Daughters of the Ocean was published two years ago and republished through Maine Authors Publishing in 2010. My nonfiction work Sidelined, based on misadventures during my journalism career, was published in the fall of 2010 by Maine Authors Publishing.
What inspired you to write this book?
This story is loosely based on the life of my grandfather. This book is a follow up to my novel Sons and Daughters of the Ocean. Both of theses novels were intended to be part of a three-book trilogy based on my own family history. I had already started on a prequel to Sons and Daughters, about the privateering age. I had actually begun to contemplate not doing the third book. But a woman I met told me that my grandfather, who died when I was five, wanted his story told. My previous novel, Sons and Daughters, was loosely based on my great grandfather. That got me thinking about this book again, but from a different perspective, and within an hour I had the idea for Breakwater emerge. So I created a character that lived through some of the same turmoil my grandfather did and persevered through it. In contrast, I created a grandson, whose life resembled his grandfather’s in some respect, and based the story on how that grandson learned from the legacy of those before him.
How did you choose the title?
The title comes from the fact that my grandfather was a lighthouse keeper at one time. He was an assistant keeper at the Rockland Breakwater on the coast of Maine. I’ve walked the mile-long granite structure many times and it has always been like a pilgrimage to my grandfather to me. I thought it would serve as a great backdrop, title and premise for the book. It has a deeper meaning in the context of the book, but you have to read it to discover how.
What obstacles did you encounter in writing this book?
The character of Hal really struggles with understanding why his live played out the way it did. He is a faithful man but he is trying to understand God’s plan and purpose for him. My grandfather wasn’t one to question God. Even though Hal is a fictional character, I still wanted him to be somewhat true to my grandfather. So it was a challenge to have Hal seek questions from God but not question him.
The story also deals with some controversial issues, mental illness and divorce. The book looks at both of these issues and some of the moral questions that people face in those situations. It took some delicate work to understand and create a story that is true to those issues. Especially with the subject of divorce, it took a lot of input from a variety of people who have experienced the kind of upheaval described in the story.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I used to tell tales IN school. When I was in first grade I’d often get up in front of the class and tell stories off the top of my head. Eventually, I developed an interest in writing, by the second or third grade. I had always wanted to write a novel of some type. In college I developed my writing and became a sports writer. I’ve subsequently written for some of the top newspapers in New England, including the Boston Globe, Portland Press Herald and Lewiston Sun Journal. I’ve been honored numerous times by the Maine Press Association and New England Press Association and recognized by many local interscholastic athletic organizations. But one thing I had not achieved in life was to write that novel. So after spending years researching and writing books for family on our ancestry, I decided to write that book. The three-book series came to mind and my first novel, Sons and Daughters of the Ocean, was the first product of that.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I struggled while writing Sons and Daughters of the Ocean to find that space and discipline myself and my writing. With Breakwater, it was much different. I learned how to find that space and create that time and utilize it. I own a cottage on the Maine coast. That would be a wonderful place to sit quietly and write. But this was a story that flowed easily. So I was always developing it in my mind and when the story was ready to come out, it would flow, regardless of where I was.
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
My grandfather and his father were both named Albert. Because of that, my grandfather was nicknamed Hal. My first novel featured an Albert Miller as one of the main characters in Sons and Daughters of the Ocean. Since Breakwater was featuring Albert Miller’s son, also named Albert, it was natural to use the name Hal. As for the character of Clark, the grandson, I had tossed about a number of names but simply picked my mother’s maiden name. It seemed to fit and sounded good.
Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?
As I said, I had a very challenging time writing my first novel Sons and Daughters of the Ocean. Being a journalist and writing for a living, it was very hard to not only find the time but also that fictional voice to use in my books. I wasn’t accustomed to making things up in my creating. So between finding time, space and creativity, writing that first novel took a great deal of work and time. With Breakwater, I learned a lot from the first experience and utilized those lessons well. As I said, I developed a time and space to write and create. I also had a better sense of developing the story and the characters. I’m satisfied with how I did what in my first novel, but it took me some time to get there. It was exciting to write Breakwater and utilize the lessons and knowledge I had developed with my first book.
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
I always have the last-minute fear that I could have done this or done that better or that maybe the book isn’t ready for publishing. I also know that if I listen to that train of thought, I’d be working on the story for years. Sons and Daughters of the Ocean is currently in a new printing and received an updated cover. During that process, I reread it. I was very pleased with it and have no regrets about it. I’m thrilled with the thought that I wouldn’t change anything about it. Then I read Breakwater and it wowed me. I was very happy with how it flowed well from its predecessor. I was also thrilled by the power and message that comes out of Breakwater. It was tricky bouncing between a variety of plots and decades, but I was pleased with how it all evolved and can’t think of anything I’d change or do differently.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
The idea for this three-book series was based on the Civil War trilogy by Michael and Jeff Shaara. Their historical novels truly inspired me to want to do something similar, especially with the wonderful foundation of my family’s maritime ancestry at my fingertips.
I liked how they were able to take historic figures and historical moments and bring them to life in the framework of a story. I truly enjoyed building off that and finding something historical and real and making it come to life in a fictional way. Both Sons and Daughters of the Ocean and Breakwater are fictional tales but because they are rooted in so many true life experiences, there’s a realness to the stories.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
After completing Sons and Daughters of the Ocean, I had begun writing Sea of Liberty, a historical novel based on ancestors from the privateering age during the Revolutionary War. I had gotten about a quarter of the way into that story. Then the idea for Breakwater evolved. It was a difficult choice between which story to pursue, but Breakwater seemed most fresh. It felt not only ready to come out but also it felt like it needed to come out soon. So I wrote that. Now I’ll go back to Sea of Liberty. I had already loved what I had written with that novel. So I’m exited to continue my research of that time in American History and get back to writing that story. This won’t be as much of a character drama as Breakwater. It will be more of an action drama. So that should be quite enjoyable to finish. I feared stepping away from it and not being able to get my mind it again a year or more later. But I’ve never lost touch with that story. It just seems to be waiting patiently for me to return.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
One of the reasons it took so long for me to write the novel I had always aspired to was because it was such a challenge to get published. There were no guarantees. Things are different today. It is much easier to get published and do the work that you want, whether it is just one book or multiple books. I go through Maine Authors Publishing in Rockland, Maine. They have provided all the services and advice an author could want. So, within a year’s time, I’ve been able to become the kind of author I wanted to be. I’m not selling millions of books or making a living off my work. But, I’m an author. It is thrilling to be able to say that. I was voted Best Author by the Portland Phoenix Reader’s Poll this year and have been able to do numerous book signings and speaking engagements about my work. I never imagined I’d be able to do so much so soon. So, in this day and age, it is possible for any writer to take an idea, work on it, make it the best they can and then get it published. The avenues are now there and prevalent for new writers to be able to do quality work and achieve the writing goals they have always had. It just takes that will and determination and a good story to make it happen.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
Readers can find information on me and my books, including sample chapters on my website, www.kevincmills.com